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Does Heterogeneity Hinder Democracy?

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractResearch linking heterogeneity and democracy usually focuses on one single dimension of heterogeneity, such as the distribution of power resources, income inequality, gender inequality, or ethnic fractionalization. Empirical results have so far been inconsistent. This article attempts a sound conceptualization of the phenomenon of heterogeneity. In order to assess whether and how heterogeneity hampers democracy, we will first define what “heterogeneity” means and examine its various dimensions. Then we will discuss why and in which respect heterogeneity constitutes a challenge to democratic transition and consolidation and will review previous research. Our empirical analysis gauges the effect of various dimensions of heterogeneity on the political trajectory of states since the beginning of the third wave of democratization. We find that, while most facets of heterogeneity do not hinder democratic transition, most of them complicate democratic consolidation. Our final discussion offers some suggestions on how the obstacles that heterogeneity poses for democratic development could be overcome and which principles, procedures and institutions are most appropriate to deal with each of the different dimensions of heterogeneity.


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